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Canadian permanent resident killed in Egyptian protest

Amr Kassem, his wife Asmaa Hussein, and their daughter Ruqaya Kassem.

A permanent resident of Canada, who lived with his Canadian wife and nine-month-old baby in Toronto, has died in anti-government protests in Egypt.

Amr Kassem, 26, went to Friday prayers and a funeral in Alexandria, after which he joined a large protest against the recent crackdown by Egyptian security forces.

Mr. Kassem was shot in the back of the head by a sniper, said his wife, Asmaa Hussein, in an interview. The pair were living in Toronto, which is Ms. Hussein's hometown, and had travelled to Egypt to visit his family over the summer with their baby daughter.

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The federal government confirmed on Friday that it had been informed "of the death of the spouse of a Canadian citizen in Alexandria. Our condolences are extended to the family and friends."

Softly sobbing on the phone and still in shock, Ms. Hussein blamed Egyptian security forces and said she could not understand why her husband had been targeted. Ms. Hussein said he was not affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood, which has led the protests against the military that ousted president Mohammed Morsi, and that his death shows the violent nature of the current Egyptian regime.

"He was there among thousands of people," said Ms. Hussein. "People are being killed in the street for no reason."

Ms. Hussein's brother, Ibraheem Hussein, said the death is "shocking," especially as the goal of the protesters was to denounce government crackdown.

"He's just a regular guy, a pharmacist. He wasn't involved in any violence at all," said Mr. Hussein, who lives in Toronto and has been in touch with his sister by phone. "This is affecting Canadians now, this is affecting people in our country."

Ms. Hussein called on the Canadian government to ratchet up its denunciation of the violent crackdown in Egypt.

"In this kind of a situation, silence means complacency," she said. "If countries like Canada aren't ready to speak up against this injustice, who is going to speak?"

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On Wednesday, Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird called for calm amid the escalating violence. In an additional statement on Thursday, Mr. Baird and Andrew Bennett, Canada's ambassador for religious freedom, said attacks on Christian churches in Egypt were unacceptable. Revenge attacks on dozens of churches, blamed on the Muslim Brotherhood and its supporters, have left many in ruins.

"Canada calls on Egyptian authorities to protect worshippers and religious sites from violence and intimidation," the Canadian officials said.

Ms. Hussein said she phoned her husband on Friday after he left his mosque and joined a demonstration. He told her that he was safe and that the protest was peaceful. She received a phone call shortly afterward from a stranger, informing her that Mr. Kassem was dead and that his body had been transferred to a mosque.

Mr. Kassem is set to be buried in Alexandria on Saturday, after which Ms. Hussein will return to Canada. She was initially scheduled to fly back home on Monday. "If I could leave tonight, I would," she said. "But I have responsibilities to take care of here first."

Canadian companies have exported small amounts of military equipment to Egypt, worth less than $1-million a year on average, according to the most recent government reports. A spokesman for the Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development (DFATD), Claude Rochon, said those export permits are only granted after a review, which includes examining the potential impact on human rights.

"We will carefully review any requests for military export permits to Egypt, as we always do," he said in an e-mail.

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Canada provides a small amount of development aid to Egypt, less than $10-million a year. DFATD said that "Canada is not suspending aid to Egypt."

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About the Authors
Parliamentary reporter

Daniel Leblanc studied political science at the University of Ottawa and journalism at Carleton University. He became a full-time reporter in 1998, first at the Ottawa Citizen and then in the Ottawa bureau of The Globe and Mail. More

Chief political writer

Campbell Clark has been a political writer in The Globe and Mail’s Ottawa bureau since 2000. Before that he worked for The Montreal Gazette and the National Post. He writes about Canadian politics and foreign policy. More

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